Grassroots Commentary

The Devil Is in the Definition

Brian Norton · Aug. 23, 2011

When we citizens try to understand what is happening in the nation’s Capitol, we need to note that there is a very specific usage of language occurring nowhere else on the planet except in legislative assemblies. As per the latest debt ceiling debacle, a reading of the fine print reveals that the spending cuts announced with great  fanfare are in reality just a slowing of the rate of spending increases…, as in, we will go 1.2 trillion dollars in debt per year instead of 1.3 trillion dollars over the next ten years. That is what Washington calls a spending cut and the rest of us term madness and fiscal insanity. So how do we parse the language to understand what is really being said?

First, a word about definitions: What is in the dictionary may reflect standardized usage from the time of, say, Noah Webster, but it does not reflect correct usage from a contemporary political perspective. Let us take but one word from the dictionary, and without looking it up, analyze what it means to the ordinary American. Invest, or investment, a noun or verb meaning to take a resource and use it to obtain a return greater than the starting sum. Usually we associate this with business, personal effort, etc, but it is always with something that is ours. What you find is that a lot of politicians, but Democrats in particular, do not use language the same way. Invest, to them, means to confiscate more taxes to spend on programs that offer no net GDP benefit. Education, for example: we spend at least three times more per pupil on an adjusted, per-capita basis than we did in 1970 but the test scores are worse…EVEN after the tests were dumbed down. Trillions of dollars have been spent on President Johnson’s “war on poverty,” justified, I might add, by compassion even though it was highly un-Constitutional, and yet now there is a vastly bigger and infinitely more permanent body of multi-generational welfare recipients who do not, or cannot, get off the government dole. Is it compassionate to deliberately enslave a segment of the population into perpetual poverty so you can have a dependent and highly loyal block of voters? NO! But this is precisely the effect of welfare in a command and control economy; it eviscerates agency and self-reliance in favor of receiving something for nothing. Except it never has been something for nothing, as there is a very steep price to pay for the welfare handout; one’s dignity and self-respect. Is there more compassion to giving a man one fish every day, or to teach him to fish so that he may catch many fish (or at least as many as he wants) so that the surplus may be sold or bartered, or even shared with others? That is a key difference between capitalism and socialism, is the uses and ownership of pf money, or private property, and the role of government in same.

And here we get to one of the core principles of the liberal vs conservative debate. Statistics have shown that conservatives open their wallet more to the poor, donate more money to charities, and are, on the whole, more compassionate with the uses of their money. Liberals are, on the other hand, more tightfisted with their own money but infinitely more willing to spend other people’s money on causes they like. However, the money they wish to spend is tax revenues.

Let us be clear, taxation is theft by force, a taking of money from a person who earned it to give to another party who did not earn it. Those who favor socialist style, big government spending do not agree with the definition of personal property rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and codified by the Constitution. They believe that property belongs to the State and that the government, at any time, may decide what is a “fair” amount for the worker to keep of the fruit of his labors, and to what favored parties the spoils can be “redistributed” to. Just ask Obama and Joe the Plumber. This legalized larceny through the tax code, if left unchecked, will foster legions of rent seekers whose sole purpose in life is to game the system and participate in the ill-gotten plunder. The resources of the country are mis-allocated, productive uses of capital are greatly diminished, and because the tax code is levied on the producers of a nation, not the leeches, tax revenues go down even as the the tax rates become ever more punitive.

At the nadir of the cycle, which we see in Greece, the U.S., and nearly every industrialized nation on our fair globe, national debt becomes an unbearable burden. Unable to restrain itself from the bread and circuses the majority have learned they can vote themselves (there are more people who do not pay taxes than those who do in the U.S., and almost half of the population receive some part of their income from the government), expenditures outstrip revenue (again this is not revenue from a business that creates something, but rather confiscation through force by a government) and rather than spend less the government borrows against future generations. I ask, is it compassionate to saddle your great grandchildren with debt for things you bought? NO! Remember the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”? That phrase aptly describes the liberal idea of compassion through government spending.

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